Our child-rearing jobs used to
be shared by many members of the extended family and still are in many cultures. But in Western Society,
we frequently opt for a nuclear family approach where we all are so independent from each other that we seem to reinvent the
wheel with each generation. If we had a rough childhood growing up, we vow not to repeat the mistakes of our parents
and we often switch to the polar opposite parenting style. Or we turn to the latest "parenting expert" who has written
the definitive book on how to Get it "Right".
with that approach is in believing that there is only "A" right way. With the "It
Takes A Village" approach, we can benefit from many points of view and learn much from our elders, other parents, and our
children themselves - maybe our best teachers - if we take the time to hear what they are saying.
It has been my experience that most kids value being listened to above almost anything else. Frequently, in therapy,
when they feel heard, valued for their unique way of seeing their world and not criticized or judged, they begin to do better
at home, in school, with authority figures, with siblings and peers. Sometimes the things they hear in therapy are not that
different from what they hear at home, but there seems to be something about hearing it come from a stranger that lets what
they hear seep in and take hold as if it were their own idea.
Sometimes the things children do in therapy can awaken interests and talents they never
knew they had. Within the therapeutic setting, I use a number of approaches to foster participation and choice/consequence
exploration to help children develop the skills they need to maintain a healthy self-esteem and take direct responsibility
for the choices they make. Activities they may encounter include animal assisted therapy (utilizing reptiles, amphibians,
birds, and fish) puzzles, games, exploration of the natural world (both flora and fauna), Art, music, photography, making
and unmaking things, talking, laughter, tears, sports, writing, making messes and cleaning them up, using the World Wide Web,
caring for the environment, role playing, time management, and sometimes even homework.
Kids today are faced with an ever increasing array of choices that at times
must seem overwhelming. Therapy can help them narrow the focus, analyze choices and consequences both positive and negative,
learn from their mistakes, improve their mechanisms for making future choices, take responsibility for negative outcomes,
take credit for positive outcomes, learn problem solving skills, build self-esteem, and begin to see their importance and
gifts they bring to the world.